Only the hand that erases can write the truth — Meister Eckhart

Writers must figuratively use both hands. Writers must be ambidextrous, not only for flexibility, but also for revision. For most of my writing life I have been one-handed and in this way have only developed half of my talent, and have been published only half of the time. I have written with my heart, only. Not consciously, but as a default setting. And only recently discovering this I have begun to examine my other hand, the one not used, and developing it alongside its much overused partner. Let me illustrate with a story.

Zen Master Hakuin (1686-1769) adopted Buddhism at the age of eight, but lost his zen soul along the way and had years of struggle. A satori produced in him an intense insight, where “there was no cycle of birth and death… no enlightenment for which I had to seek.. My pride soared like a mountain.” Hakuin wrote all this down in verse and took his composition to Master Shoju. The master took the verse in his left hand saying “This is what you understood through your brain.” The master held up his right hand and asked the mendicant to show him the insight of his heart.  

Writers often write with their heads, but have no heart. The opposite is true, for that is my case: some writers are all heart and little technical élan. My corrections over the years has been to produce technically-beautiful work, boring beyond belief with no sense a sentient being actually wrote it; or works so filled with my blood they were over-indulgently subjective. Both extremes obtuse. The balance is to find the ambidextrousness of the writer, the balance of the two in order that both heart and head are there on the page working in union erasing if need be what has been written in order to write again from both sides of the art. 

(story from “The World’s Wisdom”). 

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